Last weekend, in a bare bones rehearsal room in the basement of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, a special brand of alchemy was set in motion. For 12 hours, actors, academicians, college students, therapists, musicians, poets, and playwrights took part in an on your toes, accelerated initiation into Barrington Stage’s Playwright Mentoring Project (PMP).

An 18 month pilot program was launched in 2000 in Great Barrington with Julie Boyd at the helm. The first play was done in the spring of 2001. Frank La Frazia joined the project in the fall of 2001 when BSC began an additional program in Pittsfield.  PMP has quickly spread its geographical wings to embrace under-served 9th through 12th graders from throughout Berkshire County.

Collaboration and trust is the motivating spirit. Over three to six months, and guided by Artistic and Peer Mentors, PMP’s young theatre artists dive into theatre technique exercises and guided improvisation. Finally, they collaborate with a professional playwright and shape their words into a working script that by early April will be ready for rehearsal and, ultimately, a fully realized production.

“We want the teens we work with to feel safe, loved, empowered, and free.” says PMP Director Kim Stauffer.

Meet our PMP Blogger

playwrightphotoJane Denitz Smith is a proud member of Dramatists Guild, through whose aegis she recently held a staged reading of Death by Chocolate and Barbecue, new full-length plays. Most recently, Spread My Ashes By the Rental was part of the Made in the Berkshires Festival. Last May, Mary Durning’s Soup and Other Cultural Divides was included in Boston Theatre Marathon. Ten-minute plays have workshopped in Jen Whiting’s Ten-Minute-Play Workshop podcasts and, in 2011, scenes from After Prom, a full-length play, were staged as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Jane is the author of three Young Adult novels, published with HarperCollins. She teaches and lives with her family in Williamstown, Mass.